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ADA hosts State Dentist Well-Being Program Conference

October 08, 2015

By Kelly Soderlund

“Hi, my name is Bill and I’m a recovering alcoholic.”

“Hi Bill.”

“And I’m here because I have a lot of cavities.”

It was keynote speaker William “Bill” Borchert’s way of ingratiating himself with the dentists he addressed Sept. 18 at the ADA’s 2015 State Dentist Well-Being Program Conference at ADA Headquarters. The Emmy-nominated screenwriter gained fame for writing the Warner Brothers/Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “My Name is Bill W.,” which starred James Garner, James Woods and JoBeth Williams and was a biography of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson.

Photo of Mr. Borchert
Mr. Borchert
Photo of Dr. Unger
Dr. Unger

But Mr. Borchert wasn’t at the ADA to talk about his Hollywood success. He was there to talk about how he found success in recovery from addiction.

Seventy-five dentists who manage state dentist well-being programs across the country, along with state dental society health and well-being staff and impairment counselors attended the conference to enhance their current state dentist well-being programs and learn more about addiction issues, how dentists can help themselves and their peers and substance abuse prevention.

“All of you have shown an extraordinary commitment to what is a critical goal and that is to make sure that our dental professionals and their families aren’t suffering in silence and that we have the capacity to pull together all the resources and support that’s out there to address an extraordinary challenge in our dental profession and our society,” said Dr. Joseph Unger, chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. “The main goal of this conference is not to start a conversation — so many of you have spent decades waging long and lonely battles to be heard. Instead, it’s about elevating that conversation to a national level and bringing the disease of addiction out of the shadows and finding ways we can all work together to better our profession.”

Photo of Attendees at the ADA’s 2015 State Dentist Well-Being Program Conference
Support: Attendees at the ADA’s 2015 State Dentist Well-Being Program Conference applaud William “Bill” Borchert’s keynote address on his road to recovery.

Mr. Borchert has been leading a conversation about his addiction and recovery at medical associations, college campuses, large business organizations and recovery conventions across the country. He’s been sober since April 8, 1962.

Mr. Borchert, 82, began his career as a newspaper reporter in New York City when he was 18 years old but by 27 had a bad reputation as having a drinking problem after being fired from multiple jobs as a result of being impaired. Deep in denial, Mr. Borchert saw a psychiatrist who told him he was an alcoholic and suggested he start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“I was in complete denial,” Mr. Borchert said. “I thought I might drink too much too often, but I had no idea it was a problem.”

Photo of Greg Jones, M.D. and Mark Lutz
Greg Jones, M.D., right, who presented “Relapse Prevention and Monitoring” at the conference, and Mark Lutz, business development manager for the The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place, laugh during a presentation.
He started attending meetings in fear the psychiatrist would divulge his alcoholism to his wife. At that point, Mr. Borchert was writing bad checks, was overdue on bills and the couple ultimately had to live in his mother-in-law’s basement.

Mr. Borchert stopped attending AA meeting and continued his old habits until he found himself sitting on the ledge of a hotel window, contemplating life.

“What I found out was, alcoholics don’t want to die, they just don’t know how to live,” Mr. Borchert said.

He got down from the ledge and went home to his wife, who told him to give AA another try. He listened.

“It’s incredible,” said Mr. Borchert, who went on to become a partner at Artists Entertainment Complex, an independent film and talent management company that produced films like “Kansas City Bomber, starring Racquel Welch, and “Serpico” and “Dog Day Afternoon,” starring Al Pacino. “There’s no way to describe what it’s like to get sober and the life you lead. My life has been beyond my wildest dreams. And the best is yet to come.”

Mr. Borchert’s story resonated with the audience, many of whom have dental peers who have traveled a similar path.

“The ADA and state dentist well-being programs have worked together for more than 20 years to put a system and a commitment in place to reach out to those who are dealing with addiction and personal issues,” said Dr. Chris Smith, chair of the Council on Dental Practice’s Dental Wellness Advisory Committee. “This conference and its teachings continue to enhance those foundations and better the lives of our dental professionals.”

For more information, visit ADA.org and search for “health and wellness information.”